As winter started to loosen its firm grip on Toronto, green things began sprouting out of my mind. I wanted to plant some seeds! It was still too cold to plant anything outside but my green thumb was itchy. I decided to get some seeds sprouting in the warmth and the indirect light on the 3rd floor so that they’d be ready for a transplant to the garden by the time spring officially decided to move in.
First step, seeds! We looked through our gardening inventory and found several packets of seeds. The problem was, they were all a year or more past their expiration date. I’m not a big believer in expiration dates. I developed a keen awareness of their arbitrariness while dumpster diving as my main source of food. However, the efficacy of seeds could be more complex than using my nose to tell if a container full of yogurt was spoiled or not. I began searching online for how to test if old seeds were still good or not.
Back in Spring I wrote about having to prune our Concord grape vine by breaking several of the buds off with my thumb nail.
I wrote: “…one advantage of pruning just the buds, is that you will end up with a thick network of branches that will help block raiding raccoons from reaching the finished grapes that hang down from the vines.”
It worked. The grapes became ripe in early September and were visited by hungry racoons nightly. They ate a bunch and dropped some, but because of the thick mat of vines, many of the grapes that hung down were too hard for them to reach. The same was true for the birds. We were able to harvest grapes whenever we wanted up until mid October. I know someone who cuts all his grapes off early on and composts most of them to avoid the inevitable mess caused by the coons. Our neighbour, Josee lost his grapes to racoons last year, so this year he also cut his very early.
This pruning adaption has allowed us to share the grape abundance among all our furred, feathered and human friends.
Spring has sprung here in Toronto. Along with the first crocus flowers, there are tender edibles in the backyard and burdock and Jerusalem Artichokes to dig up. There are also more mice scurrying about our kitchen, and a few black ants.
Horseradish sprouts are one of the first harvestable plants in the Spring. They are spicy but quite delicious especially in a sandwich or with corn chips. They don’t last long, in a few days they will be too spicy and tough to eat. But by then the stinging nettle will be ready.
Stinging Nettle shoots. These are another early edible green. You have to cut them with scissors as the pricks will sting your skin, but once you boil the young leaves for a few minutes they go limp and are quite delicious in soup or by themselves. A friend of mine transplanted some for me several years ago. We keep them in a separate shady part of the garden as they grow like a weed and spread.
In the backyard we also have burdock roots and Jerusalem Artichokes (kind of like a potato) to dig up, and there is always dandelion greens and roots.
This year, once again, I forgot to trim the grape vines during the winter. Once Spring starts, any cuts will result in sap pouring out. A solution is to break several of the buds off with your thumb nail. Pruning a grape vine makes for larger grapes, and one advantage of pruning just the buds, is that you will end up with a thick network of grape vine branches that will help block raiding raccoons from reaching the finished grapes that hang down from the vines.
John caught this little mouse in the sink by putting a glass over him. Later we released him outside. We also trapped a little guy that had gotten himself locked in one of our cabinets. I also found one dead in the shower. I suspect that the neighbours maybe poisoning them. We share a party wall. Veg.ca has a good article called Dealing with mice and rats: A humane approach to pest control.